Thursday Open Line


The past few decades have seen a great expansion in the number and frequency of public opinion polls, whether from the traditional Gallup and Harris firms, to those commissioned by newspapers or political campaigns. The first such poll in U.S. history appeared this month in 1824 in the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, finding that Andrew Jackson was favored over John Quincy Adams in the four-man presidential race. Ironically, that contest drew the lowest recorded participation in our history — less than 27 percent of voters bothered to cast a ballot. Although Jackson won the most popular and electoral college votes, he had a majority in neither, and the House of Representatives then elected Adams president. In the election of 2012, nearly 133 million voters — 62 percent of those eligible — went to the polls to cast presidential ballots. Profile America is in its 17th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.